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Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic test flight reaches space, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos react

Sir Richard Branson has reached space on the Virgin Galactic rocket ship, beating fellow billionaire and rival Jeff Bezos in the process.

The Virgin Galactic spacecraft carrying British billionaire Richard Branson, two pilots and three other passengers, has reached space.

The passengers were able to unbuckle and experience a few minutes of weightlessness, while admiring the curvature of Earth from the ship’s 17 windows.

The boundary of space is defined as above 80 kilometres in altitude, according to the United States.

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The spaceship touched down after a voyage and Sir Branson called it the “experience of a lifetime.”

“Congratulations to all our wonderful team at Virgin Galactic for 17 years of hard work to get us this far,” he said during a live feed as the VSS Unity spaceship glided back to Spaceport America in New Mexico.

Sir Branson said he was “thrilled” to reveal a Virgin Galactic partnership to “open space for everyone”.

The billionaire has teamed up with Omaze which supports Space For Humanity.

He said: “Every charitable donation goes to support Space For Humanity and you’ll be entered into the Omaze sweepstake for the chance to win two seats aboard one of the first commercial Virgin Galactic spaceflights, and a guided tour of Spaceport America given by yours truly.

“Imagine a world where people of all ages and backgrounds, from anywhere, of any gender, of any ethnicity have equal access to space.

“They will in turn, inspire us all back here on Earth.

“If you’ve ever had a dream, now is the time to make it come true.”

‘To the next generation of dreamers’

Mr Branson urged the “next generation of dreamers to “imagine what they can do” during his historic space flight.

The billionaire said while in his Virgin Galactic ship: “I was once a child with a dream looking up to the stars.

“Now I’m an adult in a spaceship looking down to our beautiful Earth.

“To the next generation of dreamers: if we can do this, just imagine what you can do.”

Elon Musk congratulates Branson

Elon Musk congratulated his space rival Richard Branson on winning the billionaire race to space.

He tweeted in response to a video of the historic mission: “Congratulations, beautiful flight!”

Jeff Bezos reacts to mission

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos also congratulated Richard Branson on his historic space flight, and has said he “can’t wait to join the club”.

Mr Bezos is set to blast into space — on the anniversary of the Moon landing — in nine days.

He had hoped to be the first billionaire to make it to the edge of space, but seems excited at the prospect of being second.

Mr Bezos said: “Congratulations on the flight. Cant wait to join the club!”

What is the aim of Virgin Galactic?

SpaceShipTwo is a spaceplane designed to carry six passengers and two pilots.

It is carried aloft by a large aeroplane before breaking away and zooming to an altitude of about 62 miles.

In 2016, the late Professor Stephen Hawking unveiled Virgin Galactic’s second SpaceShipTwo craft, called VSS Unity, after the first SpaceShipTwo craft VSS Enterprise crashed during tests in 2014.

Virgin Galactic is up against fierce competition in the private space race from firms such as Blue Origin and Elon Musk’s SpaceX.

Richard Branson today beat rival billionaire Jeff Bezos into space by nine days.

Mr Bezos, founder of Amazon, will be on board the suborbital flight of the New Shepard spacecraft of his own private rocket company, Blue Origin, on July 20.

Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin, along with Elon Musk’s SpaceX, are competing head-to-head in the emerging space tourism business.

Mr Musk has previously said he plans to go to space atop one of his company’s rockets but has not given a timeframe for when he expects to fly.

Who is Richard Branson?

The British billionaire, 70, is a self-made businessman who launched his company Virgin almost 50 years ago.

He was born in Blackheath, London, in 1950 and started his first venture, Virgin Records, in 1972, which he later sold to EMI in 1992 for $928 million.

The dad-of-two has started up some very lucrative companies along the way, including Virgin Atlantic Airways in 1984 and Virgin Trains in 1993.

He launched Virgin Galactic in 2004, with the hope of offering future trips to space. Sir Richard has also created Virgin Media, Virgin Racing and Virgin Comics.

In 2007, he was placed in the Time 100 Most Influential People in the World list.

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